03/27/2008 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

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Horsemen's voice sounds warning call on steroid action

Recently, I presented concerns to the Kentucky Racing Authority regarding the implementation of anabolic steroid regulation, and by doing so it was felt by some that the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association is attempting to obstruct the process of meaningful changes to current rules in effect. This is absolutely not the intention of the horsemen's association.

On Feb. 25, a senior representative of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium appeared before the Kentucky Racing Authority in an attempt to convince them to move forward on an interim anabolic steroid regulation.

I prefaced my remarks to the racing authority by explaining that horsemen generally are fully in favor of addressing this issue, but at the same time it appears that the anabolic steroid regulation proposed by the medication and testing consortium is not yet ready to be implemented.

I quoted comments from the Feb. 17 Daily Racing Form article "Fewer stallions, more broodmares" by Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board, who also happens to be a respected member of the consortium board. He stated:

"Until we get normal levels in blood, it's going to be very difficult to regulate those specific products, and there is a big variation."

And supporting this position, Dr. Rick Sams, a nationally recognized chemist and director of the University of Florida's Racing Laboratory, and also a member of the consortium board explained:

"What we don't have is a good handle on even what an average concentration of testosterone is throughout the year or what the range of concentration is."

And, the article itself noted, "The issue is compounded by the fact that natural steroid levels can vary considerably from horse to horse."

The communication presented by the consortium board member to the Kentucky Racing Authority made clear that definitive threshold levels and withdrawal times for anabolic steroids will not be available until at least August, despite which regulators in some jurisdictions are deciding to move forward with regulations. The racing authority is to be commended for its careful and balanced approach to this technically complicated situation.

With regard to technical complications, it is interesting to note that Dr. Don Catlin, head of the Equine Drug Research Institute, was quoted by The Blood-Horse as stating at the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit at Keeneland on March 17, that "you need much more infrastructure" than currently exists in regard to steroid testing, and that "you need to walk before you run."

These are the on-the record comments of the scientific experts in this field. Given these circumstances, it would be unfair and unwise for any racing authority to implement vigorously an interim anabolic steroid regulation that has the potential to ruin the careers of innocent horses and horsemen and to also damage the racing industry at large.

Marty Maline, Executive Director, Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association

Maryland solution isn't a quick fix

I offer applause to Steven Crist for his sentiment of wanting Magna Entertainment Corp. to boost purses for races at Pimlico Race Course ("Why are these Sundays different?" March 23). Yet Crist's suggestion - taking money from the Sunshine Millions day of races for California- and Florida-breds to boost Pimlico - would only further indulge the worst instincts of the groups that have brought Maryland racing to its knees - the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and its political arm, the Maryland Racing Commission.

With the approval of the commission and Magna, the horsemen's union has been draining resources from Pimlico in order to feed its protectionist fantasies. The commission continues to allow unprofitable winter meets at Laurel Park with the losses being subtracted from Pimlico's nationally anticipated Preakness spring meets. Had there been no Laurel winter meet, there would have been money to run the Pimlico Special at its $500,000 purse (instead cut to $250,000) as well as the William Donald Schaefer Handicap (canceled this year). But, no, the horsemen's union had to have its way, wasting money on faceless races like the Fireplug Stakes run in the dead of winter in front of few fans and bettors.

In addition, the refusal of the commission (abetted by Magna and the Thoroughbred horsemen) to allow full simulcasting rights for Rosecroft Raceway has crippled the main economic engine of Maryland's Standardbred industry. The Thoroughbred horsemen's union is also supporting a slots referendum that will allow it to add 40 days back on to the live racing schedule. Yet its chief effect will be to saddle near-bankrupt Magna with added expenses and declining racing handle. This will further weaken the main engine of Maryland's Thoroughbred industry.

It is right to see Pimlico as the key to any revival in Maryland. Yet that will not happen until the pernicious influence of the local horsemen's union and the racing commission has been overthrown. Until that time, what happens in Maryland ought to stay in Maryland.

James Mosher - Ledyard, Conn.